Sermon Series: The Bad Samaritan, Part III ~ Sow What? ~ February 18, 2018 ~ John 4:27-38
(In reference to the Parkland School Shooting): I just want to pose this question, folks. We should not be surprised. We as a culture, and a society have done everything we possibly could to remove God from our life. We’ve kicked him out of school, we’ve kicked him out of government, we’ve kicked him out of the public square, we’ve told him time and time again, in essence, we don’t want anything to do with you. Well, when something leaves, is kicked out, something else fills the vacuum, fills the void. And that something is the prince of this world. The evil one will come in where God is not, where light is gone, darkness takes over. So I don’t quite understand what the shock is. When we ask God to leave, he leaves. He’s a gentleman. And I find it funny: We don’t want him anywhere near school, and yet when this happens, we ask, “Where were you?” And God’s reply is, “I’m exactly where you wanted me to be. As far away from your children and school as I could possibly get.” So we need to pray, not just for those families who are experiencing an unspeakable horror of sending your teenager off to school and having them never come home. I can’t even wrap my head around it. And for those teachers and administrators and first responders who prove to us that there is a God. And all those people now who are saying “Pray!” It’s awesome to hear people of authority, politicians, police, fire, everybody say the same thing: “Our thoughts and prayer go out to these families.” I only wish that it was en vogue to say that all the time and just not after a tragedy such as that. So we are going to pray for those families, and we need to pray for our nation that maybe perhaps we would invite God back into our lives and back into our culture and back into our society. And I believe if we did we’d see things change. So as long as we continue to ask God to leave, don’t be surprised when he does.
Alright, we are in the final, exciting conclusion of my sermon series “The Bad Samaritan,” so-called. And we left off the story in chapter 4. Oh, that’s it, yeah. Jesus had just told the woman that he was the Messiah. Alright? Remember, back in verse 10, he said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to.” If you only knew, and then in verse 26, he says, “I am the Messiah.” Now, as I mentioned last week, this is the very first time in all of human history that Jesus has said out loud who he was. The rest of the time he always answers a question with a question, right? “Well, who do you say I am?” It is as you say. He doesn’t come right out and declare who he is until this woman. I think that’s a pretty great honor in my opinion. So this bad Samaritan woman is the first woman on the face of the planet that Jesus confesses he is the Messiah. Right after he does that, in verse 27 we read: Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” See, the disciples were surprised that first Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, that’s the equivalent I guess of fraternizing with the enemy, and they knew this was a woman, not only a Samaritan woman but a woman who came to the well at noontime, so they knew what that was all about. Why? What does it have to do, what does he want with this person?
Well, I want to share something with you about the Good Samaritan story. Remember the Good Samaritan story where there was a man on the side of the road, and he was beaten and left for dead, and people thought he was dead. And two people walked by and the third person was the one that stopped and offered assistance. And the third person happened to be a Samaritan, hence the Good Samaritan known for all history now as the Good Samaritan.
Well, there’s something about the first two people that you really should know. They were basically pastors. The first one was a priest, headed to the temple, and the second one was a temple assistant. So it’s kind of like the Senior Pastor and the Associate Pastor. They were the ones that walked by and saw what they believed to be a dead body on the side of the road and kept going. Now, with our little bit of study, many of us could become angry at that, could become upset. What is wrong with these people? There’s a guy dead on the side of the road, why didn’t they render aid? Well, there’s a concept in early Judaism of a spiritual cleanliness. Remember when you were in grade school and a girl touched you? What did you get? Cooties, right? Ew! She touched me! Never did you know ten years from now you’d be like, “Please touch me, please touch me!” But ah! Cooties! Priests, rabbis, pastors had a specific responsibility on behalf of the community. They went to the temple every day to offer sacrifices, that was their job. Very similar today to like a priest. We gather on Sunday mornings to give God our thanks and praise, to lift up our voices in song, to offer our sacrifices of prayer and song and attention and reading his word. We do it on Sunday. Catholics do it on Sunday too but priests say Mass every day. Seven days a week. Similarly, priests at the temple offered sacrifices every single day. Now, one of the requirements of the priest coming to the temple, coming to do sacrifices is you had to be ritually clean, which means you had to stay away from certain foods, you had to stay away from certain people, you couldn’t do certain things, you couldn’t say certain things, you couldn’t touch a dead body. If he touched a dead body, he got cooties. He became spiritually unclean. Therefore he could not perform his sacrifice on behalf of his people. He couldn’t do his job. So when the first two walked by, they thought it was a dead body. You can’t do anything, you can’t render aid to a dead body. And they didn’t dare go over and touch it because they wouldn’t be able to complete their mission.
Well, this idea of spiritually unclean: Samaritans were spiritually unclean according to the Jews. You weren’t supposed to interact with them, you definitely weren’t supposed to intermarry with them. You weren’t supposed to converse with them, and you definitely weren’t supposed to touch them. So the disciples were a little surprised that Jesus, who is the ultimate in spiritually clean, right, would be conversing with this woman who could make him spiritually unclean. “What does he want with her?” Well, verse 28. That’s the disciples’ response. They come back and they say, “Oh my gosh, what is he doing talking to her? It’s noontime, I don’t get it.” That’s their reaction. Her reaction is different. Verse 28: The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him. So, their reaction is “ew! Cooties!” Her reaction is: she’s having a transforming moment. Right? This is her Cedar Point moment like I had. This is her goose in the snowstorm moment. Remember, Jesus said in verse 10, If you only knew who I was. Well, he says in verse 29 who he was. “I am the Messiah!” Well, now she knows. What does she do with this information? She goes running back to her village and tells everyone about this man at the well. People come streaming out to see Jesus, you can just hear the excitement in her voice. Come! Come and see this man who told me everything I ever did! I bet he’s the one! I bet he’s the Messiah! Could he be?
Well, that’s typical of someone who finally encounters Christ. There is just something about someone encountering Christ for the first time, welcoming him into their hearts, and then watching them totally transform. They are no longer the person they once were. They have changed, you can see it. You can see it in how they dress. You can see it in how they carry themselves. You can see it in how they speak, what they say, and what they no longer say. You can see how they interact with others. You can see what you thought were random acts of kindness, but now you know there’s a motivation behind them. You can see before your eyes a life transform, and it is awesome. Now, the disciples were off getting some food, off getting some lunch, because remember, Jesus was having the human experience, that was the goose in the snowstorm story. The man wanted to lead all of the geese out of the weather to save their lives, and he finally came to the realization, “They’re never going to listen to me, I’m a human. If only I could become a goose, then they would follow me.” And that’s what God did. He sent a man so that we would follow his example and he would lead us to the barn, to the foot of the cross and salvation.
So he wanted to have a human experience which means he gets tired (he likes to sit down), he gets hungry, he gets thirsty, he gets angry, he gets sad. Jesus I’m sure experienced his share of Parkland, Floridas. How many times do you figure Jesus was walking around Jerusalem right past a row of crosses, upon which the Romans had crucified criminals. He must have seen that dozens of times. He had the human experience that you and I are having, so obviously he’s going to be hungry. So they’re off getting some food, and they come back in verse 31. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” Here, we just went, we got some stuff. And Jesus replies, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” Disciples don’t get it. I love the disciples, because I tell you, they’re numb. How many times did Jesus have to tell them something, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, and they still don’t get it. How many times did he tell them that, “I’m gonna have to go to Jerusalem, I’m gonna have to die, but don’t worry, I’ll be raised again in three days.” And he goes to the cross, and “What happened? How could this happen?” They’re just clueless, right? I love that, because they’re me! Often times we are clueless. We don’t understand what God’s doing in our lives or in the lives of others! We often don’t understand what he’s doing when we read his story, our story. So I love the fact that we’re both clueless. They don’t know what’s going on. “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” They’re looking at each other going, “What? Did someone bring him food while we were gone? Did he get a thirty minute delivery from Dominoes?”
Well, have you ever been wrapped up in something, so absorbed in something, that you lost track of time, and even forgot to eat? Now, obviously it hasn’t happened to me as much as it should have, but it has happened. I have been so absorbed – you know what’s gotten me every once in a while is a good book. You ever read a really good (besides THIS Good Book), another good book where you were just so engrossed in it, you all of a sudden look at your clock and “Oh my gosh, it’s 2:00 in the morning! I gotta shut this and go to bed!” I’ll tell you what happened to me: I love Ken Follett. You know Ken Follett? He’s a writer, he writes kind of spy thrillers like Robert Ludlum does the Bourne Identity and all these, you know, “save the world from nuclear holocaust” kind of spy, James Bond type stuff. And I love Ken Follett’s books, The Key to Rebecca, The Man From St. Petersburg, On Wings of Eagles. I tried to grab every Ken Follett book that came out because I knew he was good and I would get engrossed in it. And then one year, I’m walking into the bookstore (back when we had bookstores and we didn’t order everything on Amazon) and his newest book was out, and I picked it up because I was all excited, Ken Follett. And I turn it onto the backside and I read the plot, and I go, “huh?” You know, like when your dog hears a weird sound? This book, the plot, was about the building of a cathedral in England in the 12th century. Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? We’re going from saving the world from people trying to blow it up with nuclear weapons, to the building of a cathedral over the course of 46, 50 years in Medieval England. I put the book down. I said, “No, that’s just nuts! Who would take time to write a book about the building of a cathedral in Medieval England? Who would be nutty enough to read a thousand page book about it?” Well I picked it up and put it down about half a dozen times, and finally it got to the point where it was in paperback, and I said, “Alright, I like Ken Follett, so I’m going to roll the dice.” So I picked up Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.
It is the most amazing book you will ever read, outside of the Bible and Chesapeake, this is my most favorite book ever! It was one of those books where you don’t want it to end, you get to page nine hundred and something and, “Oh my gosh, it’s over!” And then it’s like, “Yes! He wrote a sequel: World Without End!” And then you read that and you get to the end, it’s another nine hundred pages and you say, “Oh, but…” I mean, engrossed in this story, it is amazing. I did lose sleep at night turning pages, I could easily have forgotten to eat. When you are absolutely absorbed in something, sometimes you can even forget to eat.
That’s what’s happening with Jesus here. He was completely absorbed in something. What? When you see someone completely turn their life around, it is fulfilling beyond explanation, beyond words. And you don’t want that book to end, it’s a high you don’t want to go away. It’s a euphoria you want to live over and over. You don’t want to put that book down. So here is Jesus just reveling in this woman who the light bulb just went on, and went excitedly running to her village to tell everyone about her transforming moment, so much so, he wasn’t hungry. He says to his disciples in verse 34: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and the other harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” Now Jesus is using an agricultural illustration here which he does often because this is an agrarian society and they get it, they understand the subject matter. So when he uses his illustrations, he uses a subject matter they’d be familiar with. They’re farmers, so they understand the point of planting and harvesting. They understand the point of, if you don’t harvest, you die. You starve. But if you don’t plant, you can’t harvest. They get it. But what he is basically saying here, though the disciples again, they don’t get it, he is saying, “You saw that woman, right? That Samaritan woman who you didn’t think I should even be speaking to? Who you thought didn’t have any potential whatsoever, who was lost forever, beyond redemption? After all, she did come to the well at noon. Well what’s she doing now? She is running into her village and she is telling everyone about me! She was obviously ready for the harvest! Someone planted a seed in her.” We know that because in verse 25, remember, she said, “I know the Messiah is coming – the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” She just didn’t know it was him, but she’d heard the story! Somebody had told her. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I don’t know, I can picture her sitting on the knee of her grandfather, of her grandmother, as they share the story of the coming of the Messiah. Maybe she heard it from the rabbi at the synagogue. Maybe from the teachers in Saturday school. But somebody planted the seed in her about the coming of the Messiah. She was familiar with the story. You see, because I don’t believe, I really don’t believe that Jesus comes along, he has one conversation at the well, tells her about her five dead husbands and the man that she’s living with now who she’s not married to, and that’s all it took. I ain’t buying that. I don’t believe that. I believe that was the final squirt, that was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. That, I believe.
And that’s the point of his analogy. We never know. We never know if we are going to be the planter or the harvester, and it doesn’t matter. Jesus is saying, “Just tell people about me! Just tell them! You may be sowing seeds, you may be harvesting something that someone else has planted. Sow what? Just tell people about me!” That’s what we do here every Sunday with these beautiful little children, that’s what we do in Sunday School. That’s what we do in youth group. We’re planting seeds. We’re putting the first squirt, or maybe the third squirt, but at some point in their life, we’re praying that they become chocolate milk, that they get it!
You might be thinking you’re planting a seed; you may be harvesting. We don’t know. “Just tell people about me,” he says.
I had the greatest phone call last week. Some of you might know that I am also president, you can call me “Mr. President,” of the Connecticut Bible Society. And one of the things that the Bible Society does every year is we print a Daily Bible Reading Guide. We have these in the lobby if you want one, they’re free. And what it does is it breaks down the Bible into daily readings. Hence, the Daily Bible Reading Guide. And if you follow the plan and read every day the section that is assigned to that day, you will get through the entire Bible in the course of the year. Well, I got a phone call from a woman, her name is Priscilla Darden, from New Haven. She said, “Can you send me some Daily Bible Reading Guides?” I said, “Sure Priscilla, I’d be happy to. How many would you like?” She says, “Well, quite a few.” I said, “100? Would 100 do?” “Oh, yeah, 100 would be great!” I said, “Would you like English or Spanish or both?” “Oh, could you give me 100 of each?” I said “Yeah!” So she’s all excited, I said, “Oh, that’s great Priscilla, what are you going to do with them?” She says, “I’m just going out into my community in New Haven and I’m going to share the gospel with people, that’s it. God has called me to walk out and tell people about Jesus. I’m just waiting for somebody to help me.” I said, “What do you mean?” She says, “I’m blind.” There’s a blind woman all set to go out in New Haven and tell people about Jesus. It was awesome.
That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, telling people about Jesus. That’s what we’re going to do this summer when I do my Doctoral project. Help me go out into this community and tell people about Jesus. Because it’s amazing. You may think you’re sowing seeds when suddenly Boom! They’re chocolate milk. Suddenly something clicks and they get it. And it’s awesome. You thought you were planting, when what do you know, you’re harvesting, praise God! You thought you were giving, and you ended up receiving, and that’s often how it works. I know, people come here every Saturday and do Sparrow Ministry down in Gray Hall, and they come because they want to give. They want to give, give, give, and every single one of them will tell you they get so much more than they give. That’s how God designed it. Every year that we come and do a Vacation Bible School, we come because we want to pour into these children, we want to squirt some chocolate into their milk, we want to show them the love of Jesus, and we give of our time, and our talent, and our abilities, and we’re exhausted, and we’re overwhelmed at times, and we just think, “Oh, I have given everything I have.” And yet, you end up getting so much more than you could ever describe. You don’t do it for the reward, that’s not the point. We understand that deeds do not get us into heaven. We cannot earn our way. We do it because that’s what happens when you become totally transformed. You simply can’t stop yourself. Your motive may have been to give, but you end up getting far more than you can give. As I said, that’s just how it works. My mentor, Reverend Carlson, Pastor Bob was famous for saying, “You cannot outgive God.” You can’t. Luke tells us as much in chapter 6 of his gospel. He says, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” And he’s not just talking about money, that’s true, it goes for money too, but if you give of your time, you give of your talent, you give of your love, you are going to get love back beyond what you can possibly imagine. Give and you will receive. However, if we give but a little, God’s word reminds us in 2 Corinthians, using an agrarian illustration again, Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must decide in your heart how much to give, how much of your time, how much of your talent, how much of your treasure, And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And what will happen? God will generously provide all you need.
The fact of the matter is, folks, if you want to be blessed, be a blessing. Amen. Be a blessing. You will be amazed. So the story of the Good Samaritan is a great story, because God uses the Good Samaritan to rescue someone who others thought was beyond hope, was dead. Which should teach us there is no one beyond our compassion. In the story of the Bad Samaritan, also a great story, God uses someone that many, including the disciples, also thought was beyond hope, was spiritually dead. How many people do you think you come across that fit the mold of the woman at the well? I’d say Gray Hall is full of them on Saturdays. At least, our perception is, here are some people who are lost. That’s what we think, that’s what comes into our head if we’re honest with each other. They’re all women at the well. Maybe some of them are even beyond hope. I don’t know, the last couple of weeks have been a little bit busy on that end. I have been approached three different times in the past eight days by a woman at the well. Now, I don’t normally, I don’t give cash because I don’t trust that they are going to spend the cash wisely. But one guy said he wanted some money to eat, so we walked into Burger King on Main Street and I bought him a burger and a drink. Another guy, I was at a meeting on Friday having coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and a very meek, he just reminded me of how that woman probably approached the well at noontime because she didn’t want to be seen, right? Hood probably over her head, kind of looking around. Comes up to me, very shy, “You think maybe you could, you know, help me get a cup of coffee?” So I got up, got him a cup of coffee. When Ryan and I and Phil were walking back from Spurgeon, first Tuesday of the month, this gentleman comes up and says, “Gosh, do you guys have money for a bus pass?” Phil whips out his bus pass, whatever money was left on his bus pass for the week, he gave the guy a bus pass for the week. We are approached by women at the well, people at the well all the time. All the time. And they are not beyond redemption, they are not beyond hope. We are not supposed to pass them by. We don’t know, we don’t know who is this close to becoming chocolate milk. They are just waiting for someone to put that last squirt in there, waiting for someone to bring them across the finish line. This woman was waiting for the one who is called Christ. How many people out there are just waiting to hear about Jesus? Jesus started a conversation with someone others would not talk to. Someone whose life looked like a hundred miles of bad road. And yet, if you continued on with the story in verse 39, you would discover that many people from that Samaritan village came and believed in Jesus because of her testimony.
Both of these stories should remind us that if we are Christians, if we proclaim to be Christians, then we do know who Jesus is. He’s already told us. We know. Like this woman, the question is what are we going to do with that knowledge? We should never be the people who say, “Sow what?” We should never be the people who, “I don’t care about that man on the ground over there or that woman at the well. It’s none of my business.” Christians should be sowing seeds of faith. How many people, how many villages, how many cities might come to know Christ if we did that? Jesus started with twelve apparently not very bright guys! Right? Twelve! There are now 2.4 billion Christians in the world today. From 12 to 2.4 billion. However, there are 7.2 billion people in the world today, which leaves 5.8 billion to share Jesus with! We best get our… going, huh? We best get going. Now look, I understand, if you are uncomfortable sharing Jesus, that’s OK. Just invite them to church, I’ll be happy to tell them. That’s all you have to do. Just invite them. And you’re not responsible for if they come or not. That’s not on you. Just ask them, “Gee, come on to church. Come on to church.” “How come your answer to everything is to go to church?” Have you tried it? Come on to church! If you’re not comfortable I’ll be happy to tell them. But do not leave them on the ground or sitting beside the well hiding from the world, thinking they are beyond redemption. They are not, any more than you were or I was. At least invite them to church and make some chocolate milk.
Now, before I go, this is Lent and I don’t often get a chance to tell Lent jokes, so I gotta start with Lent jokes. Alright, first of all I began on Ash Wednesday going down and meeting with the South Church Women. I like to call them my Golden Girls. And we kicked off the Lenten season by, they lent me a cupcake, which I enjoyed. I mean, it was Ash Wednesday, you know, change the batteries in your smoke detector, check and check. OK. So, February 16, the first Friday of Lent, a faithful parishioner stumbles through pouring rain past hamburger huts and steakhouses into the monastery at Mount Angel and requests shelter. He is just in time for dinner, and was treated to the best fish and chips he’d ever had. After dinner he goes into the kitchen to thank the chefs. He was met by two Brothers. “Hello, I’m Brother Michael and this is Brother Francis.” “I’m very pleased to meet you,” he says. “I just want to thank you for a wonderful dinner, the fish and chips were the best I have ever tasted. Out of curiosity, which one of you cooked what?” Brother Michael replies, “Well, I’m the fish friar.” The man turns to the other man and says, “Then you must be…” “Yes, I’m afraid, I’m the chip monk.”
Come on, Lent happens once a year, right?
A man took his young son to a baseball game. While they were sitting there he asked the boy what he was going to give up for Lent. The boy replied, “I don’t know dad, what are you going to give up?” His father said, “I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve decided to give up liquor.” Later in the game, the beer man came by and the man ordered a beer. The son objected and said, “Hey! I thought you were giving up liquor!” His dad answered, “Hard liquor, son. I’m giving up hard liquor. This is just a beer.” To which the boy replied, “Well, then, I’m giving up hard candy. Not all candy. Just hard candy.”
Haha. Let’s pray.